So I received an email from Laurent François about the #WebCream project. It's an interesting concept aiming to connect people from all over the world, speaking different languages, but people who all recognize social media as an important changing agent in their daily lives. I thought it's fitting to post my story on this blog since I'm trying to find a connection between my different languages. This is not your grandmother's Peace Corps...
When thinking of being in the Peace Corps, the image of living in a village among a culture that is completely different naturally pops up. That image is usually follow by a very basic living condition that doesn't have running water, may or may not have electricity, getting very creative with everyday tasks like washing dishes, laundry, baking, etc.
All those describe me as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2009, posted in a small village of West Cameroon. However, with advent of technology, I am also equipped with access to Internet. By Internet, I do not mean your high-speed DSL, cable, T1 or some other absurdly fast Internet where you watch YouTube videos without even thinking about it. Think back when Internet first became popular back in the late 90's - that's the kind I have. But hey, better than nothing!
I struggled a while to decide to spend the $40 a month on very slow Internet. I was afraid having constant access to the "real world" would defeat the purpose of being in the Peace Corps. But then I realized that everyone joins the Peace Corps for different reasons, and mine most certainly was not to be cut off from the world.
Instead, I used it to my advantage; posting anecdotes of my life through the blog Round II: Cameroon, tweet about things that annoy me or makes me happy on Twitter, and exchanging project ideas with people all around the world through email.
When I launched the Books For Cameroon project, words spread fast with the guidance of social media. Never in my wildest imaginations did I think I would be working with friends on press releases via instant messenger and email while I am in Africa. I also didn't think I would be getting helpful insights from RPCVs through Peace Corps Connect. The creation of Books For Cameroon Facebook Page brought all kinds of supporters for the project together. People whom I have never met and wouldn't have been able to reach out to. This list goes on...
There is no doubt that having Internet access changes a Peace Corps experience. But in the end, it's a matter of choice, and I choose to let it help me promote my stories and projects. Social media, after all, is helping Africa, the lost continent, to be a little bit less lost.